Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Watch Kanye West Preform "All Day" For the First Time Ever

Earlier today the 2015 Brit Awards, which are the British equivalent of the Grammys aired. There were many interesting nominees and winners, but the biggest aspect was the surprise performance by Kanye West. For the first time ever, the world heard the official version of "All Day". On a blank stage surrounded by a giant mob of hooded men with flamethrowers, Ye put on a fantastic performance, somehow balancing minimalism with raw decadence, as only Yeezy could. The song was blaring and brutal, a god-damned banger in Yeezy style. He raps with energy and stunts all over the song. The hook was done by up-and-comer Allan Kingdom, whose verse is frankly pretty weak compared to Yeezy and his energy. This single looks like it could be the best song of the year, and it seems that Kanye will completely own 2015. Earlier this week, he sat down with the Breakfast Club  for an extremely friendly and open interview. He said the album is 80% finished, has ''cookout music that just feels good", and will be a surprise release. In the meantime, look at the fantastic performance here.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Review: 'If You're Reading This, It's Too Late' is Not Worth the Money

Late Thursday night, Drake suddenly dropped a new... something on iTunes. For the last few months, there had been rumors that he would be dropping a new mixtape in January, which was confirmed by P.Reign. But, instead Drake released a for-retail project, which costs a whopping $13 for seventeen tracks. Nevertheless, by Tuesday, If You're Reading This, It's Too Late managed to sell 495,000 copies with literally no promotion.

IYRTITL may be a commercial project, but it fully feels like a mixtape. Most tracks are banger-esque, with bass-heavy, rattling production. There's very little connection between the tracks, and it basically feels like a collection of filler tracks, and throw-away singles. It's new Drake material, but it's nothing new at all. I can't stress enough how repetitive and monotonous. Not only do many tracks sound similar, but the entire album just sounds like a slightly more aggressive Nothing Was The Same. It's Drake complaining about women and wealth, then boasting about his wealth and women, It's a selfish album, but most of Drake's work is selfish. But what's most noticeable is the reused flows. Drake delivers every single bar like he has before, ranging from the laid-back, yet boastful flow, to the half rapping/half singing flow, to the nearly shouting flow. A lot of songs sound basically like a sequel to past Drake tracks. "You & The 6" has the same theme as "From Time", the beat on "No Tellin'" sounds similar to "0/100", and the flow on "6PM in New York" is literally the exact same as on "Tuscan Leather".

Production is handled by Boi-1-da, Noah "40", PARTYNEXTDOOR, and WundaGirl, who've all heavily been apart of Drake's production over the last few years. Drake's strength has always come from his producers, and while it would be hard for any of these producers to craft a bad track, I've heard better beats from them. They're pretty simple, and sound much more like mixtape beats then album beats. Still nice beats, but not great. PARTYNEXTDOOR and Travi$ Scott appear on IYRTITL, with PARTY getting a solo interlude, plus the previously released "Used To" with Lil Wayne appears on this tape. PARTY turns up the auto-tune a bit to high on "Preach", which can get somewhat annoying. And on "Company", Drake starts out with a slow, boring intro, but then Travi$ Scott takes over both the production and the vocals. He turns the song into a banger, and completely owns that song. And while I think the project is very unoriginal, it is extremely listenable. Drake's lyrics aren't clever, or insightful, and mostly selfish, but they are catchy as hell. I find myself chanting "RUNNING THROUGH THE SIX WITH MY WOES" from "Know Yourself". So while I don't respect the project, or Drake, very much, I still can't stop listening to it.

There is a rumor that this project is just so that Drake can leave Cash Money. Lil Wayne signed a four album contract with Cash Money, and it's speculated that Drake did as well. Releasing IYRTITL as a commercial album is smart from a business perspective, but rude from a musical one. Charging fans $13 for what is basically a throw-away mixtape isn't very respectable. And if this contract idea isn't true at all, then this mixtape is probably a precursor to Drake's next proper album Views From the 6.  If that's the case, then prepare for Views From the 6 to basically be a murkier version of Nothing Was The Same.

Lyrical Skill- 2.5

Technical Skill- 2

Production- 3.5

Listenability- 5

Features- 3

Consistency/Theme- 1

Notable Tracks- "Company", "Jungle", "Energy", "Know Yourself"

Overall Rating- 3

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Kanye West Reveals New Song at His Fashion Show

The link was a countdown to Kanye West's fashion show unveiling during New York Fashion Week. While Yeezy showed off a variety of new clothes, the star of the show was the new adidas Yeezy 750 Boosts (pictured above). They can be preordered on the adidas app, and will reportedly cost $350. And while a new fashion line from Kanye is cool enough, we additionally got to here the very first track of his new album. Entitled "Wolves", the opener features Sia and Vic Mensa. I'm ecstatic that Mensa is on a track with Yeezy, since he is one of my favorite current artists and will go far with this Kanye West co-sign. The audio is a recording of what was going on at the show, so it isn't the best quality, but you can still hear the new track. There is no rapping in the song, and sounds like there is a lot of auto-tuned vocals. It somewhat sounds like a cross between Yeezus and 808's & Heartbreak. It's a slow, bass-heavy industrial pop song. Kanye, Vic and Sia warn others to not love them, saying that they are "bad for you". Hopefully, we'll get the official version soon, but for now enjoy the recording and preorder the Yeezy 750 Boosts.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

An Analysis of the 2015 Grammy Awards

The 57th annual Grammy Awards are currently underway. As I'm writing this, AC/DC is giving an awkward opening show that shows how old they are. I'll be explaining, reviewing, and attempting to understand this year's Grammys, with a focus on hip-hop and R&B winners.

First, we should go over how exactly the Grammys work. There are nearly 80 awards given, from basically all music genres. From rap and country, to gospel and urban contemporary (the most recently added category), the Grammys cover basically all contemporary music. Besides the genre-specific awards, there are four general categories: Best New Artist, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Album of the Year. The winners are decided by a panel of music experts, who are about 150 people who are either musicians, producers, composers, or anyone who has worked on at least 6 commercially released songs. The judges, as well as record labels can submit recordings for consideration. Each judge can vote for any of the four general awards, and nine of the genre-specific awards. Five finalists are chosen for each category, and then the judges again vote for the four general categories, and eight genre-specific categories. The judges are asked to vote in their own genres, but don't have to. Music released between September 30, 2013 and October 1, 2014 are eligible for awards this year. Historically, the awards usually go to artists who are the most popular and sell the most records. Pop music usually wins the big awards, and smaller genres (especially hip-hop) usually gets snubbed. Often, the Grammys are more of a popularity contest than a showcase of true talent.

Unsurprisingly, Sam Smith is winning big. Less than 40 minutes into the awards, and he's already won Best Pop Vocal Album and Best New Artist. Pharrell is also pulling ahead, with Best Pop Solo Performance and Best Urban Contemporary Album. This is a bit of a shock, since Beyonce and Sail Out were both nominated for Best Urban Contemporary Album, and Taylor Swift, John Legend, and Sam Smith were all also nominated for Best Pop Solo Performance. Last year's Forecastle headliner Beck won Best Rock Album, and Beyonce wins Best R&B Performance for "Drunk In Love". In general, the live performances have been pretty toned down. Adam Levine and Gwen Stefani, Ariana Grande, Kanye West, and Ed Sheeran all sung fairly slow songs. I'm about to go to bed, but keep watching for performances by Common & John Legend, Kanye West, Rihanna, & Paul McCartney, and Sam Smith.

There is a double-edged sword concerning hip-hop at the Grammy's today. Last year was pretty pitiful for major rap releases, and many people were concerned that Iggy Azalea would win the Best Rap Album award. But Eminem took home the award instead for The Marshall Mathers LP 2. This was the best selling rap album of all the nominees, and while I think Oxymoron, Nobody's Smiling, and Because the Internet were superior albums, I can easily see why the didn't win, and at least Wiz and Azalea didn't win. Also, Kendrick Lamar finally took home a Grammy, two in fact. He won both Rap Record of the Year and Best Rap Song of the Year for "i". The judges agreed with me on that one. But, none of these awards are televised. All of the hip-hop winners were announced before the ceremony, and as of 10:00 EST, there have been no rap awards given in on live television. This is an even bigger snub than last year, when Macklemore took home the Best Rap Album award over Kanye, Kendrick, Drake, and Jay-Z. Rap is a huge part of contemporary music, and it's ridiculous that they won't even mention the rap awards on television. Rap is one of the newer categories in the Grammys, but it's still been recognized for almost 20 years. I am about to go to sleep, so they may show the rap awards later on, and I'll look like an absolute fool, but I don't think that will happen. Yet again, the Grammys have snubbed an entire genre of music, a genre that is expanding and refining itself every day. It's truly a shame that after almost 20 years this is still happening.    

Thursday, February 5, 2015

What is Kanye West Up To?

Undoubtedly, Kanye West's new album is the most anticipated album of the year. We've been teased with tidbits of news from the album, and two new songs. And yesterday, a low quality version of the possible first single off of the album, called "All Day" leaked. An even lesser quality version was leaked last year, but it was very short. This version is longer, and has an ending verse from Travi$ Scott on it. The song is hellish and booming, with loud bass and what sounds somewhat like a looped chainsaw in the background. Kanye flexes and swags out all over this song. It's like a darker updated version of "N*ggas in Paris". Hopefully a better quality version will be released soon.

And it may be released within a week. Just a few moments ago, Kanye tweeted (which is very rare) a link to The link was to a countdown, currently at 6 days and 19 hours away until...something. In the background is a short clip of what looks like a conveyor belt, with people talking nearby. There is little to be taken from it, since the video shows very little, and there are loud pauses throughout. This tactic looks a lot like what A$AP Rocky did for "Multiply". If I were to guess, I'd say the official version of  "All Day" will be released, since it was just leaked, or maybe a new clothing line/sneaker line, judging by the conveyor belt. Check back in a week from now to find out.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Things I Missed: "Black Messiah"- D'Angelo

It would be a bit untrue to say that I missed Black Messiah. The night before it dropped, the Internet was buzzing with the return of D'Angelo after a fifteen year absence. I listened to the album when it dropped, but due to poor timing I didn't give it thorough, repetitive listens. But within the last month I have, and I absolutely love this album.

What is most noticeable about the album is the production. It is entirely live instrumentation, with practically no synthetic elements that I can detect. While if done poorly, this method can sound repetitive, but due to the layered, build-up approach that D'Angelo and The Vanguard take on this LP, it is anything but. Each track sounds lush and different, from slow and laid-back, to explosive and full of energy, and all very funky. The album sounds like a nostalgic throw-back to something I've never heard before. D'Angelo's nasally, unique voice doesn't overpower the production, but instead acts as a compliment to it. My favorite tracks are "Betray My Heart" and "Really Love" both of which are love songs which build up to gorgeous crescendos. Black Messiah is both sentimental and rare, over-flowing with beautiful production and insightful lyrics. Don't do what I did, and listen to this incredible album as soon as possible.